We have now doubled the usual time of Whistler Film Festival, but with a lot of us being at home with extra time on our hands, there is a lot of time to check out the festival at a much more relaxed pace. I have been emailing with WFF’s Director of Programming Paul Gratton throughout the festival as we’re fellow movie buffs and we need to compare notes, and he had a nice thing to say about spreading out the film schedule over December:
“The upside to this weird year is that by rolling out thirty films in twenty days, we have time to give every film its due.”
Well said, and I hope to be adding it with daily dispatches which have been a real pleasure to write from my home in Victoria.
Day 10 features two great programs, the first an outstanding documentary from Quebec and the new Sea To Sky Shortwork which puts an emphasis on local filmmakers.
The Paper Man (Quebec, dir. Tanya Lapointe)
Part of the joy of film festivals is discovery and coming across subjects you may have not heard about, and in this case the late artist Claude Lafortune was someone that I was happy to discover in the new doc THE PAPER MAN. As I live on the western coast of Vancouver Island I only ever needed to turn to French “Channel 3” when I wanted to fire up my VHS player, so I was never shown much Quebec content. Oh how I have been missing out.
Coming across like a Quebec version of Fred Rogers, Claude rose to fame in French Canada with TV specials featuring “paper sculpture” to depict bible stories. Later on, he had children’s shows featuring his paper puppets along with guests with disabilities. This show was a huge success, but it gets even better; those paper creations of his were also classified as art, and where THE PAPER MAN really picks up is how Claude gets involved with the presentation of his works in current art galleries in Quebec.
One of the most heartwarming aspects of THE PAPER MAN is how director Tanya Lapointe just watches Claude and his subjects, and especially the more recent connections he made (sadly, he passed away due to COVID-19 earlier in the year). One absolutely heart-warming moment was when one of Claude’s TV guests approaches Claude as an adult, and as we see them talk it cuts back to her appearance on the TV show. It’s moments like this that make me love documentaries, and THE PAPER MAN is full of them.
Rating: ***½ out of ****
THE PAPER MAN begins streaming today on the virtual Whistler Film Festival website. Don’t miss it. My thanks to Jive PR for sending along an advance copy for review.
Sea To Sky Shorts Showcase
WFF presents the Sea to Sky Shorts Showcase, a new regional filmmaking competition. The showcase is about discovering great stories that connect us to the people and our community while highlighting filmmakers from the Sea to Sky region- from Horseshoe Bay through Squamish and Whistler to the Pemberton Valley inclusive of Birken and D’Arcy.
The quality of all of the shorts I am looking at in this article all vary wildly in quality, and that is pretty much the point of it all; this is all very DIY/Indie from local Whistler and Squamish filmmakers, and for all of these I greatly admired the passion that went into this quickly produced shorts.
2 Girls & 1 Idea (Canada, dir. Talia Wittenberg and Thea Torn)
Two Whistler Village based kids named Talia and Thea start up a small mask business to make things more safe for their friends around them. The description in the guide mentions that they start a business but it’s just a few fleeing shots of a sewing machine making reusable masks, and there seems to be more their friends in quick interviews saying whether they wash their mask or not after iMovie stylized cards ask them questions. A little bit of expansion on exactly how they did their masks and how they sell them would have been more insightful. Mostly shot on phones and photos and with the girls themselves also putting together this entire short, I obviously can’t be too critical as if I am reviewing a feature film, but even in a few minutes I can see very positive and upbeat personalities in Talia and Thea. Let’s see them do more.
Caution: Flying Discs (Canada, dir. Wesley Finck)
What I liked about this short is the simple idea of a found frisbee leading to a chance encounter and a fun little sport in the Whistler mountains that I didn’t even know about. There’s a weird little rap song, a good friendly interaction (something I wish we could even just DO right now in the middle of a pandemic) and then another potential story starting again right at the end. It’s a bit rough around the edges and the acting/editing is a bit rough, but it’s understandable considering the short competition, and filmmaker Wesley Finck shows promise here.
Finding A Home (Canada, dir. Paul Haysom)
A gorgeous short film that is also very simple; we listen to a phone conversation between director Paul Haysom and his friend Liz about what makes this area of the world so special to him, intercut with stunning high-definition aerial, drone and close-up footage of Haysom enjoying off-road biking throughout the mountain area of Whistler. With no credits anywhere to be found, this elegant little ode to Haysom’s area of the world is a treat to see on screen and reminded me a bit of WFF alum Darcy Hennessy Turenne’s doc THE MOMENT which also featured some of these bike trails. There’s even a nod to In N Out Burger, which makes me miss the chain.
Making Miki’s Magic (Canada, dir. Steve Andrews)
A loving tribute to a local legend, McKayla, who is first seen joking to herself in a self-shot video. Having passed away a few years ago, a local trail in Whistler was built in her name and we see a few interviews with local friends and community as to the impact that Miki had on their lives. The few glimpses we see of Miki are wonderful, and you can clearly tell she was always very positive and upbeat, and that also comes across in the interviews. I only wish this short was more expanded so we could see even more of the lives that she changed, but Steve Andrews’ beautifully photographed and edited short on this inspiring individual is still well worth seeking out.
Nature Entwined (Canada, dir. Amanda Palmer)
Running only four minutes so nope much to say here, but NATURE ENTWINED is a stunning visual poem on womanhood all set in the Squamish area from babies to mothers, Amanda Palmer’s lovely concept is worthy of a short film inclusion in front of a BC nature documentary. Using closeups, time-lapse and stunning 4k cinematography, it is a visual triumph and I really hope it is shown on a theatrical screen in the future. If you are streaming this during the festival, please try not to watch on your laptop and stream on a bigger screen. Trust me, it’s worth it.
Please Try Again (Canada, dir. Janalee Budge)
Not only battling her agoraphobia but also what looks like mental illness, “The Artist” (Feral Nifty) is trying to get someone on the phone along with making music and creating art all the while trying to stay inside even though paradise is just right outside her doors. But at what point is this too much? I have seen this idea done before but it’s a creative idea with its feature star aside from The Artist, that of a rotary phone, that gave me a laugh. There’s also a strange phone installer at the end of the short that ALSO gave me a laugh as well. I also totally want to hang out in that artist’s apartment. Oh how I miss Whistler right now.
Sam’s Suspension (Canada, dir. Hugh Saint-Jacques, Kieran Ross-Kelly)
A VERY student movie where I can tell both of the lead kids show promise to make movies down the line and will do really well at it…as it stands now, SAM’S SUSPENSION is roughly edited, poorly acted…and I’m also totally okay with that. It’s still a light-hearted lark of trying to bring more fun into two best friend’s lives when they are both suspended at school (all to the tune of a red-headed teacher that also looks their age and a bit young to be a teacher…again, I’m okay with this) The final few minutes of confident bike stunts bring the movie out of a slow first few minutes, and I will give it strong points for using LCD Soundsytem in the soundtrack! Again, the kids here seem enormously likeable and talented and I hope they try more short subject ideas soon.
Sea2Sky PI / Tech Chron A Well Based Story (Canada, dir. Kyle Killeen)
Filmed what with looks like a VHS camera and styled like an early 90s reality TV cop show, it’s about a local Whistler private investigator who is down on his luck thanks to the pandemic and his employment insurance running out. Kyle Killeen, the director and star, has a really funny sense of humour and I liked the idea…but thankfully the short is only five minutes long as that was really about all of its welcome right there. I also liked the local village shots, something of which is surprisingly missing out of many of the shorts in this package.
Unparalled (Canada, dir. Roshan Beaven)
Sami is a pregnant girl in Whistler Village who feels like she is trapped in the house due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and can’t get her boyfriend on the phone. And that’s really about it in the four minute short that asks if she is courageous enough to venture outside into the world. A bit of relationship strife at the end but otherwise the cell phone-level photography and low production value tend to hamper the overall vibe, even if it just runs for four quick minutes.
Utopia (Canada. dir: Anna Dziczkaniece)
Visually stunning and like with the previously mentioned FINDING A HOME of having biking shots that reminded me of the WFF title THE MOMENT from a few years ago, Anna Dziczkaniece’s short on the Hilltop Mountain Biking service encouraging younger girls to do outdoor Whistler activities almost feels like a commercial at times to promote this service, however the doc does mention that girls are dropping out of these sports at a faster rate than boys. Jamie Hill, a former Olympic gymnast, is the founder and you can tell is a very positive and inspiring individual. This gets the job done in a professional and visually arresting style in just five quick minutes.
The Sea to Sky shorts are all available as a single viewing together on the WFF virtual site. Thanks again to Jive PR for sending this (and all the other shorts) along!
#WFF20 is here! Join in celebrating cinematic excellence with 97 fresh films, including 30 features and 67 shorts, premiering through December 20th and available to Canadian audiences online until December 31. Once you order a film, you have 24 hours to watch it. (We at Get Reel Movies recommend the TV streaming box Apple TV or even the Roku app, both of which I use to stream titles this year.) Plus, WFF has pledged to share net online proceeds on a 50/50 basis directly with the filmmakers or Canadian rights holders.
For more information, visit www.whistlerfilmfestival.com!